Social Interaction, the Internet and the Self

How has the internet affected the way we are socialized? How might that affect our sense of self and the way we relate to one another in society? Utilize the theories/concepts you have learnt and reflect on the issues that Sherry Turkle raised in her talk. When I first read this assignment, I immediately thought of Facebook, and my love-hate relationship with it. Facebook has become part of our culture, whether we like it or not. One of the great accomplishments of Facebook is that it enables us to reach out to people we know, enlarging our social network, keeping us in touch regardless of time and place.

In short, it makes the world a whole lot smaller than we had originally thought. It also encourages us to reach out to people we barely have any associations with. I remember when I was young, I was taught not to talk to strangers on the street, let alone on the Internet. Nowadays, it is rarely seen as a strange act (Fig. 1). That goes to show that culture is adaptive and always changing. Our generation has discarded technological aspects of meeting people and making friends as it is now “more practical” to do so online.

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Our attitudes about how we should form our relationships with others have changed drastically. This new culture, of course, is not merely subject to one particular group of people. “All human societies, despite their diversity, share some cultural characteristics and functions. ” (Murdock,1940) According to recent statistics, there are 183,963,780 Facebook users in Asia alone, and figures are growing (Fig. 2). The effect of the Internet touches all countries, all races, all genders, and all other demographics, which all the more makes such a great impact on our culture.

Whether it is on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, users all communicate by posting status updates; photos, videos, and give feedback to each other by commenting on others’ posts, but these actions are often not random nor haphazard because these actions are subject to cultural influences. I remember hearing this phrase during one lecture: “Human beings act upon meaning. ”, and the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Posting anything online from time to time, expressing ourselves has become a social structure, of which this behavior is structured, patterned and recurrent.

These online interactions are forms of symbolic interactions because people now rarely share for the sake of sharing, implying that there is an underlying purpose as to why a person posts something online. Culture is instrumental, which implies that it enables us to cope with the problems of living, including norms and values. As Sherry Turkle has mentioned, we keep doing these actions over and over in the hopes of receiving a sign of approval, and all these actions are done for our self-image, or as Sherry Turkle stated, “To support our fragile sense of self. (Fig. 3) It is similar to a child seeking attention from parents. A boy would be running and jumping and shouting, “Look at me, Mommy! ” in hopes of receiving a positive sanction such as praise, while fearing that he is unable to conform to society. We use the ability of being able to post material online to cope with our insecurities. We have become addicted to seeking the approval of others, so much that we sometimes often lose the ability to assess ourselves in our own perspectives.

It is true that we have become reliant on social networking to feel good about ourselves because we feel as though we are connected to many people at the same time. Through the internet, we are able to create integrations and interactions with others regardless of time and space, which gives us a heightened feeling of social solidarity, and thus a stronger sense of belonging. It has become more and more apparent that we nowadays, value high social interaction and having less social interactions would be a violation (Fig. 4), even if does not lead one to anomie.

The way we view friendships now differs from traditional values. Quality of friendships is less valued now and the quantity of friendships is valued more. Even when the online interactions do not suffice to meet our needs to seek for empathy, we still hold on to technology hoping that one day technology itself may provide the emotional stability and comfort we need as humans. Sherry Turkle used robots as an example to show that some humans feed off of the fake empathy by machines in order to feel understood (Fig. 5). It is like finding feelings from a diary in which we have poured our emotions into.

With that in mind, we can now say that we have set traps for ourselves, believing that if we had more online contacts, we would gain more empathy, and yet in the end it is not enough because as humans we crave not only understanding, but human understanding, and we continue to become frustrated as to why empathy is so difficult to obtain. It has become apparent that we always seem to incline to connecting to everyone we come across, but we rarely ever make the choice to end certain relationships and integrations, mostly due to the fact that it seems all too “impolite” to do so.

On one hand the more connections we have, we may feel a higher sense of belonging to the world, but on the other, we know that we are not able to maintain all of our online relations and tend to drift apart from people we’ve met, and we choose to keep them as a part of our current lives and create “clutter”. An article from the South China Morning Post Post Magazine describes the phenomenon and the difficulty of cutting certain ties as it is not the norm (Fig. 6). Of course, society’s norms are created by none other than ourselves, thus we’ve dug ourselves deeper into our hole.

In her TED talk, Sherry Turkle presses on the issue of detaching ourselves from social networking for a while to give ourselves an opportunity for solidarity and form real face-to-face interactions. However, it is very difficult to do so when we have all internalized the use of social media in our everyday lives as a source of communication. We can hardly facilitate resocialization since society’s norms and values do not allow us to discard these behaviours, even so now that our consumer society will even encourage more online connections. For myself, I’d like to be able to separate myself from online interactions for good one day.

Governed by cultural influences, my online profile is still activated and will be as is until it is the norm to deactivate. (Word Count: 1,179) ———————– Melizza ( 10549679 ) Fig. 1 This Youtube clip shows that nowadays if we want to get in touch with someone it can be done by searching for their online profile. Fig. 2 Facebook User Statistics 2012 [Infographic] Fig. 3 Sherry Turkle — Connected, but Alone? Fig. 4 Sherry Turkle —-Connected, but Alone? Fig. 5 Sherry Turkle —-Connected, but Alone? Fig. 6 Post Magazine —- Should old acquaintance be forgot?

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